EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 8, 2012

Your view: Letters to the editor

Think of families of fallen soldiers before using flag for political protest

To the editor:

Recently I became aware of a member of my community flying the American flag upside down as a political protest. My reaction was visceral and I became highly agitated. Later on as I calmed down, I began to reflect on the reasons I felt this way.

As a young man I served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968.

During my tour I participated in combat action. I found the body recovery operations actually worse experiences than the fighting.

Details were formed to collect the remains of our fallen brothers; no one volunteered for this gory, sickening work and our hearts went out to those chosen.The recovery was accomplished without ceremony, executed in silence except for the occasional sound of men vomiting and sobbing. Our thoughts were about the wave of misery rushing toward the fallen soldiers’ unsuspecting loved ones back home. We all imagined our own families, if our turn came.

A fellow soldier in my platoon had received orders to accompany his best friend’s body back to the United States. He was killed elsewhere in Vietnam, but his mother had requested that his best friend accompany her son’s body back home. When he returned he explained, how after the identification process, the remains were placed in a casket and draped with the American flag. The casket and that flag were honor-guarded throughout the long journey home.

The flag remains on the coffin, shielding the loved ones from the reality of what lies beneath it. At interment that flag is presented with great ceremony and reverence to that soldier’s loved ones.

When I see the flag, I see fallen friends and fellow engineers.

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